You may have heard the story of Dan Price, the young entrepreneur of Gravity Payments, a Seattle-based credit card processing company, who raised the minimum salary of his 120 employees to $70,000 a year. Price was reportedly inspired by a happiness study that showed emotional well-being rises up until about $75,000 in salary.
Gravity Payments was founded on the idea of creating a fairer payment system for small businesses that process credit. Price’s actions achieve the rare feat of unifying the company’s external mission with its mantra: creative leadership, passion for progress and responsibility. When employees don’t have to worry about money, they can focus on the company’s mission. And, because they live the values internally, it’s authentic. Fairness for customers equals fairness for employees. Simple, eh?
Bring on the Skeptics
Changing the operational components of the company to align the brand purpose internally to culture is rooted in logic, as well as being an admirable move. But it is still rare enough to be considered unconventional. As the backlash of his actions makes apparent — two employees quit, a few clients left, and his brother is suing him — challenging the status quo is a test of anyone’s resolve. If people are leaving and disliking what you’re doing, that means it’s working; those who don’t believe in your cause opt out and those who do stay.
Since the announcement and overwhelming media coverage, the company has been inundated with job applicants. Screening out the vigilantes after a higher salary against the ones motivated by the mission will be a test.
Ultimately, delivering as a mission-driven organization with a direct tie to brand purpose will improve culture and allow the brand to thrive in an increasingly purpose-driven world.
Shifting the natural order of things where purpose truly becomes the primary brand filter is the ultimate challenge of those who dare to do something different. No matter what brands do, people will pass judgment. The true test is having the conviction to stick to your guns no matter what detractors might say. Gravity Payments and other pioneers like them are showing the world that it can be done. Expect more to follow.
The skeptics could ultimately still have their victory. A recent investigative report by Bloomberg Business sheds revealing information that questions Price’s motives, although it is too early to judge the outcomes until all of the facts come to life. Regardless how this pans out, the frenzy surrounding the story has put leaders and companies that live out their purpose in the spotlight.
Gabriel Cohen is Chief Marketing Officer at Monigle. Follow him on Twitter.